153392 Attachment, Communication, and Delay during the Evacuation of the World Trade Center on September 11th

Monday, November 5, 2007: 11:00 AM

Joshua Nathan Semiatin, BA , Psychology, Loyola College in Maryland, Adelphi, MD
Martin Sherman, PhD , Loyola University, Baltimore, MD
Robyn R.M. Gershon, DrPH , Department of Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, New York, NY
Marcie S. Rubin, MPH, MPA , Department of Sociomedical Sciences, PhD Student. Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY
Purpose: To determine whether information gathering behaviors prior to initiating evacuation from the World Trade Center (WTC) Towers 1 and 2 on September 11th, 2001 was associated with delay and belief in the situation's danger.

Methods: Quantitative data were collected from WTC evacuees (N = 1,440) who were mailed a 10-page confidential questionnaire which addressed the timing of evacuation events, available information sources and their influence, and beliefs regarding personal safety.

Results: Various sources of information utilized prior to starting evacuation were the predictor variables. Evacuation initiation timing was delayed by communicating via devices such as cell phones and pagers, as well as exposure to mass media, regardless of which tower and floor the evacuation was initiated. Sharing information face-to-face was also associated with decreased likelihood of believing that 1) the situation was dangerous and 2) evacuating the building completely would be necessary. For those who believed they were in danger, face-to-face information gathering was associated with longer delays, whereas the opposite association was found for those who did not believe that the situation was dangerous.

Conclusion: Results highlight the importance of giving clear, explicit instructions to occupants of high rise buildings during disasters. These data indicate that when multiple, potentially conflicting information sources are available to survivors, the crucial decision to evacuate can be delayed significantly. Survivors who sense danger and discuss their decision with others are likely to further increase their delay.

Learning Objectives:
1. List at least two factors that contribute to increased delay in evacuation initiation. 2. Describe the influence that discussing one’s decision to evacuate can have on one’s belief in the situation’s danger. 3. Describe potential strategies that might help decrease the time it takes for survivors to discuss plans for action and mobilize their evacuation.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No
Any institutionally-contracted trials related to this submission?

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.